By Piotr Wegorowski, doctoral researcher, Cardiff University
The TLang project has facilitated connections with many people and agencies. From relationships with our research participants to our non-academic partners, members of the project team have enjoyed an array of opportunities to enter conversations with various people. Some links have been with us from the very start of the project, while others have emerged with time. An example of an initiative which sprang out of the project is the Linguistic Ethnography Discussion and Study group (LEDS), convened at Cardiff University. LEDS is celebrating its first anniversary on the 22nd October, so this seems like a good moment to take some time to talk about this forum.
The inspiration for the group came for the project, where we discuss a number of methodological and theoretical issues in a team. Having a forum which brings together people interested in linguistic ethnography was intended to allow us discussions and opportunities to learn together about a wide range of matters. Frances Rock, one of the TLANG co-investigators along with Jaspal Singh, a PhD student at Cardiff University, came up with series of meetings which have enjoyed great success. Although based in Cardiff, after advertising the event on the Linguistic Ethnography Forum, the sessions were attended by people coming from as far as Bristol and Exeter. We even welcomed David Poveda from Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, although we must admit that this was via Skype! While initially each monthly meeting was planned for an hour, our lively discussions those who were interested in continuing to explore theoretical and methodological ideas after the ‘official’ slot frequently did so, chatting on into the evening! On one occasion we even managed to continue our discussions over dinner in a nearby restaurant.
The meetings are always informal and discussion-based. The first couple of sessions were driven by the discussion of excerpts from key research literature, talking about what linguistic ethnography is and what it allows us to study. We were then treated to insights into the PhDs of Cardiff Student Zayneb Al-Bundawi, studying practices in a Mosque in Cardiff, and Exeter Student Sarah Foxen examining the town of Tournai in Belgium. The beginning of 2015 saw more sessions led by LEDS group members. We started off by a session on transcription, led by Piotr Węgorowski in January. The following month Rachel Stubley from the University of South Wales talked to us about issues in data collection from a literacy studies perspective. Then in March, from Jaspal’s initiative, we thought together about an important question of what we can give to our research participants. LEDS also allowed Amal Hallak, Cardiff-based Tlang Research Associate, to reflect on her first year as a linguistic ethnographer, and Helen Watts, a PhD student at the University of the West of England, to lead a stimulating discussion on the need for a balance between linguistic and ethnographic data. We also welcomed Maryam Almohammad, who recently graduated with a PhD from the University of Bristol and who talked to us an aspect of her doctoral research: negotiating professional identities in Syrian workplaces. The series of meetings in the last academic year was closed with a session led by Tereza Spilioti, a lecturer at Cardiff University, who invited us to think about the implications of carrying out ethnographic research online.
We are pleased to say that this initiative has continued with a new wave of meetings in the current academic year. Very soon we found keen participants, who agreed to lead the next two sessions, displaying therefore the need for talking through some of the issues we are all faced with when carrying out research. Amal will lead a session on the ways of getting involved in a research site without becoming distracted on the 11th November.
If you happen to be in or around Cardiff, feel free to join us. New group members are very welcome. Details of upcoming sessions and more information, including a bibliography, can be found on our website. It is really good to see that the TLang project pushed us in a direction which gave life to a grouping of people who perhaps would not have met otherwise. Maybe we can meet you before long?
Cartoon by Sarah Foxen, University of Exeter, reproduced with permission.